Real Madrid took advantage of a ridiculously open Celta Vigo defense to come away with a 1-4 victory (Guidetti; Ronaldo x2, Benzema, Kroos). It was controversial, but deserved. Here’s our reaction to the match. Still to come: player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.
Well, that was controversial. Real Madrid come away from Balaidos with an important victory, one that sees them catapulted towards the league title with just one point needed to seize it completely. But it was controversial, as it was weird. En route, Iago Aspas received a second yellow for a dive he never committed, Raphael Varane wasn’t called for a handball just outside the edge of the area, Isco (the brilliant, just brilliant Isco who was immense) gave the ball away in a position that Real Madrid couldn’t recover from in time defensively to stop John Guidetti from scoring, Ronaldo (the mother of all statistical and prolific unicorns) missed an open net — and to boot, we just witnessed one of the most embarrassingly open matches of football not including Granada or Osasuna we’ve seen this season in La Liga.
*Note: There were, to be sure, other wrong decisions from the referee that benefited Celta. The ones mentioned above are the ones that left their mark the most.
Weird and controversial — but apart from that, Real Madrid were the better team over 90 minutes and deserved to win this match. It would be interesting to see just how much more conservative Celta Vigo would have approached this match had they had something real to play for other than pride. Defensively, they sacrificed everything in transition, allowing Isco and Kroos plenty of space to bring the ball up field and act as counter-attacking surgeons. The best example may have been Real Madrid’s first goal, where Marcelo’s brilliant curling ball hugged the sideline and found Isco’s cutting run. The ball got away from Isco, but Ronaldo received it and used Benzema’s decoy run to find space to shoot.
That was one example of many. Celta’s defense opened up even more from the 55th minute on, and their commitment in running without the ball to hound Zidane’s men decreased from there too. Real Madrid took advantage in transition all night, and in a game where Celta Vigo attacked plenty too, it was always going to be case of ‘which team can recover defensively the most efficiently’. Ultimately, it was Real Madrid who coped better in this wild back-and-forth marathon. Though you could pull them back and give them an earful for individual mistakes in this match; Ramos, Casemiro, Danilo, and Varane did well enough to snuff out attacks and make key interceptions between them. We’ll nitpick shortcomings in the podcast tonight I’m sure, but overall, they were good, despite not being perfect.
This was a very good performance, by the way, from the front three: Isco, Ronaldo, Benzema. Celta giving them all kinds of space to work with is always going to play in Real Madrid’s hands, and the movement and efficiency from all three tonight was great. People in my live half-time video were screaming for Benzema’s head for his miss after the brilliant pass from Kroos found him in front of goal — but I would say if you look at the rest of his performance today, it was highly conducive to Real Madrid’s victory.